Mexico reveal lineup to face Portugal
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Miguel Herrera was in fine form in Thursday's news conference ahead of Mexico's final World Cup preparation match on Friday against Portugal.
Accusing members of the media of drawing a giant pig on the whiteboard inside his team's dressing room after the game against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday and defending his daughter after the abuse she received following some unfortunate tweeting, he was far from dull.
At first, "Piojo" refused to name his starting XI -- as he usually does ahead of games -- telling the assembled media to "go and ask the Bosnia coach," with whom he is clearly still angry as Safet Susic changed his lineup after the team sheets had been handed in on Tuesday. After being questioned multiple times -- "The public want to know, Miguel," said ESPN's John Sutcliffe -- Herrera gave in.
The team to play Portugal, in a 5-3-2 formation: Jesus Corona; Rafa Marquez, Francisco "Maza" Rodriguez, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Paul Aguilar; Jose Juan Vazquez, Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera; Giovani Dos Santos, Oribe Peralta.
Herrera has previously said that his XI against Portugal will be as close as possible to the team that plays Cameroon in El Tri's World Cup opener on June 13, so there were plenty of conclusions about the direction Mexico will take in Brazil.
The five main takeaways from Mexico's XI against Portugal:
1. Herrera's decision to put in Corona seems to end the debate over the goalkeeping position. The suspicion as soon as Herrera took over the national team was that Corona would be favored, partly because he knows the 33-year-old well from their time at Estudiantes Tecos. The news will be devastating for Guillermo Ochoa, who seems condemned to watch his third World Cup from the bench.
2. Olympic gold-medal winner Diego Reyes, 21, is already in Europe with Porto and has impressed at every level, but he appears to have lost the right center-back spot to Rodriguez. Maza may not be the most popular figure among Mexico fans, but he does possess a significantly better physical presence than Reyes and is experienced at World Cups. The downside is Rodriguez's susceptibility to errors in recent times.
3. Vazquez was the rational and natural choice for the holding midfield role. He may not have the requisite experience at the top level of the game, but he knows the position. That frees up Herrera to play further forward, where he can do more damage.
4. Guardado is in an attacking midfield role. This is a major surprise. Marco Fabian has netted two goals in the three warm-up games, and with Carlos Pena not in form, he was assumed to be the player who would step up into the XI. Guardado, the diminutive Valencia player, has been bright in recent games and has bags of experience, even if he hasn't featured very much recently further forward.
5. Herrera's lineup confirmed what we already pretty much knew upfront: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez will not be starting for Mexico in Brazil. Instead, Dos Santos got the nod to play alongside Peralta. It is a positive decision from Herrera, with Dos Santos full of confidence after a good season with Villarreal and proving against Ecuador last weekend that he can play as a proper striker high up the field -- which Herrera is looking for to stretch the opposition defense and open space for the attacking midfielders and wing backs to exploit.
Overall, it is a solid, balanced team, in line with the form players have shown so far in the friendlies.
Herrera and Mexico fans had just better hope for a positive performance against Portugal in Massachusetts. Anything else and all the previous debates will be reopened with increased vigor in the week before Mexico's World Cup opener.